Energy Efficiency in the U.S.-China Clean Energy Bilateral Agreement


In November, 2009, the United States and China reached a bilateral agreement to expand cooperation on climate change, energy and the environment.

As part of the agreement, Presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao announced several joint initiatives aimed at expanding energy efficiency across several sectors in their respective countries.

Many of these initiatives already existed under the administration of the U.S. Department of Energy, but with modest focus or funding. The agreement provides significantly greater direction and resources to these initiatives and highlights the countries’ concerted effort to coordinate action in addressing climate change through clean energy technology.

Additionally, these initiatives could give efficiency providers and advocates with opportunities to become more involved energy efficiency implementation in China and the United States.

The U.S.-China Energy Efficiency Action Plan

The Energy Efficiency Action Plan is a new addition to the preexisting U.S.-China Ten Year Energy and Environment Framework established in June 2008 under the Bush Administration. With this new provision, the two countries will work together to improve the efficiency of buildings, industrial facilities and consumer appliances; they will also convene annually at a U.S.-China Energy Efficiency Forum to share best practices in these topics.

The Action Plan will be administered through the U.S. Department of Energy but funded through the U.S. Department of State. For each focus area, the Action Plan outlines several undertakings:

Energy-efficient buildings and communities: Officials from both countries will develop building codes and rating systems in consultation with the private sector. To promote energy efficiency in cities, the two countries will establish a Mayors’ Sustainable Cities Program through which local officials from the two countries visit each other’s cities to share experiences and best practices in sustainable urban development and planning.

Energy-efficient industry: The two countries will address energy waste in the industrial sector through the development of benchmarks, on-site energy audits and training programs for building inspectors and energy efficiency auditors for industrial facilities.

The United States and China’s combined industrial energy use accounts for about half of their total combined energy consumption, so increased efficiency in this sector will contribute significantly to their respective emission reduction targets.

Energy-efficient consumer products: The United States and China will harmonize test procedures and performance metrics for energy-efficient consumer products, exchange best practices in efficiency labeling systems and promote efficient products through public education campaigns.

The U.S.-China Electric Vehicles Initiative

This initiative acts upon the interests of both countries to accelerate deployment of electric vehicles (EVs).

Project goals include developing joint design standards and test protocols; sharing EV technological research; conducting demonstration projects on EV consumer trends across both countries; creating a multi-year road map to meet research and development needs; and launching public education projects. A U.S.-China Electric Vehicles Forum will be held each year and build upon the first forum, held September 2009.

The U.S.-China Energy Research Center

Unlike the other listed initiatives, the U.S.-China Energy Research Center was formally established as a new program by the countries’ November bilateral agreement.

Building upon more than thirty years of collaboration between the United States and China in science and technology, the new Energy Research Center will facilitate joint research and development in clean energy technologies and create an information clearinghouse for use by both countries.

The center’s list of initial research priorities includes building energy efficiency and clean vehicles. Funding for this initiative is at least $150 million over five years, made available through public and private investment. The U.S. Department of Energy will issue a Funding Opportunity Announcement in late January 2010, calling on consortia (led by national laboratories but involving private sector companies and stakeholders) to apply for research grants.

The U.S.-China Energy Cooperation Program (ECP)

Announced under the agreement, the newly formed ECP is a public-private partnership founded in September 2009 by 24 clean energy companies. It will leverage private sector resources for clean energy project development under the Action Plan, to occur in China but for the benefit of both nations.

Member companies will collaborate on projects in the areas of smart grid, clean transportation, energy-efficient buildings, industrial energy efficiency and combined-heat-and-power technology.

Support from the U.S. government will be provided by the departments of Energy and Commerce and the U.S. Trade & Development Agency (UTDA), which will advise the organization. The UTDA will fund an exchange program that introduces Chinese energy sector officials, and project sponsors to U.S. clean energy technologies by facilitating visits to the U.S. through Spring 2011. The agency will also fund a program that introduces Chinese mayors to U.S. green building technologies and sustainable city planning practices.


These joint initiatives represent important advancements in the United States and China’s bilateral cooperation to address climate change and energy waste. As the two greatest carbon emitting countries, the United States and China have great potential to significantly reduce global carbon emissions and expand the deployment of clean energy technology and energy efficiency, both within their domestic markets and at the global scale.

Resources: Official White House press release on the U.S.-China Energy Announcements, with links to White House facts sheets on several of its components.